When staff with NeighborWorks Columbus approached SSG(R) Joseph Hubanks about being given a new house, he was surprised, he said.
The 83-year-old Korean and Vietnam War veteran was living in the same house since he retired from Fort Benning in 1973. The home, originally built in 1955, had fallen into severe disrepair — “pretty bad shape,” said SSG(R) Hubanks said Oct. 6 as he stood on the lot his old house once occupied.
The property now includes a brand new home, constructed through the Columbus Cottage Program, a NeighborWorks Columbus service financed through community support with matching funds from the city.
The program is geared toward elderly or indigent members of the community who live in substandard housing, said Cathy Williams, president of NeighborWorks Columbus.
The new home for SSG(R) Hubanks, the program’s third recipient, totaled around $60,000, she said.
“The home inside was the worst we’d ever seen,” Ms. Williams said. “There was no roof; there was no floor; there was no refrigeration; there was no plumbing; there was obviously no heating and air. He lived pretty much outside on his porch. Mr. Hubanks kept his yard perfect, and (from) the front façade, you couldn’t tell there was anything wrong because it was collapsed from the back.”
The Columbus Cottage Program is one of many services offered by NeighborWorks Columbus.
“We’re a community organization, and we just kind of respond to what the community needs when they need it,” Ms. Williams said.
“NeighborWorks Columbus at its core is about assisting families build assets for independence. We see home ownership as a way for a community to come together. It is the American dream; it roots a family into a community. When you have an ownership in a community you tend to become more involved. And I think that’s important to the health of a city.”
The nonprofit organization provides financial counseling, neighborhood tours, first mortgage financing, home-buying seminars and the Hallock Soldiers Fund. The fund, open to any service member or veteran who wants to become a first-time homebuyer, gives matching incentives, low-interest loans and down payment assistance.
“We at NeighborWorks Columbus feel a special amount of dedication and duty to our Soldiers and our Soldiers’ families,” Ms. Williams said.
“It’s absolutely important that we honor our veterans,” said COL Charles Durr, former Maneuver Center of Excellence chief of staff, before he and former Fort Benning commanding general MG(R) Walter Wojdakowski presented the keys to SSG(R) Hubanks. “A country that forgets its veterans is a country that won’t be around very long.”
Students at Faith Middle School, including those in Advancement Via Individual Determination, gifted, band and video production, supported the project by attending the ceremony. Several students donated items to stock the new kitchen.
“I’m glad it has a happy ending,” said 11-year-old Stella Hesse, a seventh-grader. “We’re proud to be here to celebrate Mr. Hubanks’ new house. He really deserves this. It stands out on the whole block. It’s beautiful.”
“That is a nice house,” SSG(R) Hubanks said. “I love it. This is something I’m proud of.”A free one-hour home-buying orientation will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at NeighborWorks Columbus, 18 11th St. To sign up, visit www.nwcolumbus.org.
For more information about NeighborWorks Columbus programs, call 706-324-4663.